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I'm looking for a word to describe a piece of paper I hand to my customer - to offer (well, ...) something for a specified amount of money.

Let's say I send my customer a letter with the content "Hey, you can buy this magnificent car for just $400". What is the correct term for that? Offer? Quotation? Proposal? Proposition?


The single piece of paper is for a single customer and it's done with a previous request from the customer. So the customer says "I need a red sportscar" and I reply with a note (whether it's letter, fax, e-mail, ...): "Okay, I got the following red sportscar for you which may suit your needs for the price of $$$".

Or thinking of real estates, where you end up asking the broker "I'm looking for a shiny new apartment" and the broker replies with a real estate he has in mind selling to you for a specified price.

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closed as not a real question by MετάEd, kiamlaluno, Mitch, Hellion, aedia λ Jun 11 '13 at 20:44

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

More context is needed if you want help finding a particular answer. In one case a piece of paper is given by hand to a customer, another it is mailed to them. A small difference probably, but the discrepancy in context suggests more to the situation. Is this same piece of paper with the same information given to more than one customer, or only one particular customer? Is this done without any prior request from the customer, or did they seek a price for that particular "car"? – JustinC Jun 7 '13 at 14:21

Proposal generally means a detail of just what you are offering as well as for how much. If I know exactly what I want, then I don't need a proposal, just a price. If however I've some general requirements and you describe the product or service that will meet it, as well as the price, then that's a proposal.

A pitch implies a more active approach on your part, making an effort to argue for the proposal and perhaps - but not necessarily - being unsolicited.

Both of these are a type of tender. These days tender tends to only be used of larger jobs, though strictly it need not (and in legal contexts will not).

An estimate entails you perhaps eventually charging more or less than what you quote. A quotation tends to be arrived at in much the same way, but there may or may not be a guarantee that you will not go above the amount.

An offer covers all of these.

A proposition is technically correct, but not often used in such cases. In a business context it's more often used for a more complicated deal than just a sale (you might make a proposition that you partner on a project, for example). It's also used in entirely different contexts that makes any use that isn't clear you are talking business unwise (particularly as a verb).

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So it'd be a proposal (not an offer) when a customer says "I need a new apartment for rent" and I tell him "Yeah, well I got this apartment for 500$ that might suit your needs, please take a look at that"? – SeToY Jun 7 '13 at 21:02

It's called an offer, or proposal. If the $400 is in effect "illusory," you are on shaky legal ground, however.

In legal terms, a contract consists of six parts: 1) an offer; 2) an acceptance; 3) consideration; 4) legality; 5) contractual capacity; and 6) contractual intent. If any ONE of the preceding parts is missing, there is no legal contract.

First, an offer: For there to be an offer, there must be a clear and unambiguous communication of a sincere intention on the part of one person to enter into an agreement with another person.

Does your offer to your customer represent a sincere intention on your part to sell a car to him for $400? If so, you just made him an offer. YOU are the offeror.

Second, the acceptance: The ball is now in your customer's court, and he calls the shots. He is the offeree. If he says "yes," you are on your way to forming a legal contract; if he says "no" and makes you a counteroffer, the ball is then in your court; you can accept or reject his counteroffer and perhaps counter his counteroffer, and so on, until you've reached a mutually-agreed-upon price.

I find it hard to believe a "magnificent car" can be purchased for a mere "$400, but it is not unheard of, I suppose.

Third is the consideration: It's the old "value for value, quid pro quo" step in forging an agreement. The "subject" of the deal is exchanged for something else; in this case a car for money, though the consideration need not be money; it could be virtually anything of value.

These first three elements of a legitimate contract are the three most important of the six because they form the provisions of the contract itself; without them, there is no contract.

Fourth is contractual capacity. If the offeree is of legal age (18 in some states, 21 in other states) AND has the mental ability to enter volitionally and rationally into a contract, then capacity exists.

If the offeree is either not of age or incapable due to mental defect to enter into a contract, then the contract, once consummated, is voidable. That is, if the offeree or, say, his parent, wants to nix the deal, then he may do so and the things of value that were exchanged must be returned to each party.

Fifth, there is legality. If in consummating the deal, one party is breaking the law in some way, the contract is void. Period.

A "contract" to kill a person will always be void and malum in se (considered wrong, inherently and universally), as will a "contract" between a "John" and a prostitute (except in maybe two counties in the state of Nevada--and one of them is NOT Las Vegas!), which is malum prohibitum (wrong by law or statute). And

Sixth, there must be contractual intent, and the intent must be legitimate.

If there is an element of coercion, duress, undue influence, deception, or downright fraud, there can be no valid contract. Period. When a salesperson tries to sell you a car cheaply because he knows the car is a piece of crap and will likely break down five miles after it is driven off the used-car lot, an element of fraud exists, particularly if he offers you a thousand-mile warranty but has no intention of honoring that warranty.

It is said, "Let the buyer beware"; it is also said "Let the seller beware." There must be legitimate contractual intent on both sides. If the offeree puts a gun to the offeror's head and says, "Sell me this car for a hundred bucks, or I'll blow your brains out," that contract is voidable and is not really a contract at all, because of the element of duress.

Who wants to get shot over a hundred bucks? Not I! I'd sign that contract in a heartbeat. Later, though, I'd involve the cops in the affair and insist the car be returned, and I in turn would give the money back to the "offeree" as the police cart him off to jail.

Any questions?

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An offer is the best option, since you'd like him to think you're doing him a favor in presenting him with the coupon(?). A proposition/proposal are essentially two sides of the same coin - after you give the proposal, you have proposed a proposition.

As such, proposals are more formal, and usually given in the context of inter-business presentations/memos. You usually expect some action, usually to benefit you in some way. While the sale might benefit you, we want the customer to think he alone is benefiting from your kindness. You wouldn't really say you made a proposition to a customer. (Unless you proposed to be married! :) )

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On the other hand, there is a distinct difference between proposing marriage to an eligible person of the apposite sex and propositioning the same person. Both would be expected to lead to cohabitation after acceptance but the latter would be without the benefit of wedlock. Those expecting (or hoping for) a proposal of marriage would likely be highly offended if presented with a proposition instead. – Dilip Sarwate Jun 7 '13 at 13:08
"apposite sex"? really? – teylyn Jun 7 '13 at 14:26

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